Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the main cause of severe vision loss among adults past the age of 50. This common eye disease causes irreversible damage to the macula or the small spot near the center of your retina that’s responsible for sharp central vision. At Optik Birmingham in Birmingham, Michigan, Joe Ales, OD uses the most advanced imaging technology available to help men and women in Metro Detroit to detect AMD as early as possible so they can take steps to protect their vision. To learn more, call or schedule an appointment online today.

Macular Degeneration Q&A

What is macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition that causes a progressive loss of sharp, central vision, making it harder to see clearly when you’re looking straight ahead. AMD causes progressive and irreversible damage to the macula, which is a small spot near the center of your retina.

The two main types of AMD are:

Dry AMD accounts for approximately 80% of all AMD cases. It occurs when parts of the macula get thinner with age and begin to grow tiny clumps of a protein called drusen. With dry AMD, central vision loss tends to be slow and gradual. There is no known medical treatment for this form of the disease.

Although wet AMD is far less common, it’s also far more serious. It occurs when new, abnormal blood vessels appear under the retina. If these abnormal vessels bleed or leak other fluids, it can scar the macula and result in a more rapid loss of central vision. When diagnosed early, wet AMD may respond to medication or laser treatments.

What are the risk factors for macular degeneration?
An estimated 1.8 million adults have AMD, and another 7.3 million adults are at substantial risk of AMD-related vision loss. The eye disease is more common among Caucasians than people of other racial backgrounds, and women are more likely to develop it at an earlier age than men.

Being older than 50 and having a family history of AMD are two of the biggest risk factors for AMD; smoking and being overweight can also significantly increase your chances of developing this progressive disease.

What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?
The signs and symptoms of early-stage AMD are often so subtle they go unnoticed. As the disease progresses, however, you may notice a blurred area near the center of your vision. You may also experience:

  • Blank spots in the center of your vision
  • Gradual inability to see objects clearly
  • Loss of full or clear color vision
  • Visual distortion (straight lines appear wavy)

By itself, AMD doesn’t lead to blindness. However, the gradual loss of central vision can make everyday tasks and activities like driving, recognizing faces, reading and doing close work very difficult, or even impossible.

How is macular degeneration detected?
Like most gradual eye diseases, AMD can only be detected during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Although several of the tests Dr. Ales performs during an eye exam may give him clues about the presence of AMD, an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan, which not all eye care providers offer, is the best way to detect AMD, especially when it’s still in its earliest stages.

After dilating your pupils with eyedrops, Dr. Ales uses the OCT scan to capture high-resolution, three-dimensional cross-section images of your retina and optic nerve. Because this diagnostic test uses light waves to map your eye tissues, it’s noninvasive and completely painless. Dr. Ales’ use of the OCT scan can also keep you from having to seek out a further specialist’s diagnosis, saving you both time and money.

Although there’s no cure for AMD, there are magnifying devices you can use to see better and lifestyle changes you can make to slow its progression. To learn more about AMD or schedule your next comprehensive eye exam, call Optik Birmingham or schedule an appointment online today.